Ramaphosa says coal-fired plants won’t be phased out
The president says government has committed to a mix of coal, gas, hydro, wind, sun, nuclear and biogas
President Cyril Ramaphosa has moved to allay fears that the country’s transition towards renewable energy will mean the end of coal-fired power stations.
He said he had always communicated that most of SA’s energy was generated from coal, making it almost impossible to ditch it for renewables.
“People often say that with these renewable energy processes we want to move away from coal. Eighty percent of our energy is generated from coal-fired power stations, and we’ve just built two big ones which generate almost 10,000MW,” he said.
“Even as we’re entering all these discussions to energy transition, I have made it clear to those I meet on international platforms that there is no way at all in SA we can go and shut down the coal-fired power stations,” he said on the second day of the KZN provincial executive committee of the ANC in Pietermaritzburg on Monday.
He said most of the power stations were ageing — 43 years old on average — and that made them expensive to run and maintain, which is why they needed to be retired.
“But instead of retiring them we’ve come up with a new concept to repurpose them.”
He said government aimed to improve the performance of existing power stations.
“Our other objective is to add new capacity,” he said. “To do that we are going to look at renewables. In renewables there are a lot of great opportunities and new industries that are being opened,” he said.
“We need to bring more capacity, we are short of 6,000MW.”
He said the transition from ageing coal power stations to renewables, particularly gas-powered power stations, would have minimal impact on the lives of the communities around them.
He said government would ensure it was a just transition process and the community around the power stations would not lose their livelihoods and that workers would be retrained to work with gas-powered power stations.
He lamented the lack of maintenance of power stations before 2010, blaming it for the crisis.
He said in the past many of the plants were not properly maintained and the funding for maintaining them was not made available.
“We went through a period at Eskom where the word issued was ‘don’t maintain, just run the power stations and keep the lights on’, particularly as we went to 2010.”
He added the government had committed to a mix of coal, gas, hydro, wind, sun, nuclear and biogas.
“That is the mixture of energy sources we have committed ourselves to, but at the moment we have 80% of coal-fired [plants], and we have built two new power stations where we spent double the amount of money we’d budgeted. In one case we had been set to pay R62bn, we ended up paying double that. In another we set R72bn and ended up paying R142bn.”
Ramaphosa reiterated he had engaged the National Energy Regulator of SA to reconsider the 18.65% electricity hike it had proposed for Eskom.
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